Adrian Martin on Roberto Rossellini

Here are the last two paragraphs of Adrian Martin's review of Tag Gallagher's illuminating book Adventures Of Roberto Rossellini - His Life And Films. The emphases are mine.

The image is from Rossellini's Il Messia, possibly the greatest film ever. The guy on the right, struggling with the fishing net, is the son of God; and the slightly pensive guy on the left is Judas, but we don't know his name yet in the movie. I find this image to be a good example of the 'present tense' Adrian Martin is talking about.

"Rossellini's films, at their best, occur in this saturated, voluptuous present tense in which everything is always on the point of transforming itself. And as such, they grab us here and now, in our present tense of viewing, no matter our socio-political or historical context. The "miracles" that Rossellini shows are scarcely mystical (he refused to include the depiction of miracles in Acts of the Apostles), and the "grace" they bestow is not exactly in the hands of a God who alights when and where he wills it (which is the kind of line critics like to lazily indulge in relation to other religious cinéastes, like Bresson, von Trier or Dreyer). We can hardly know - and the characters seem to hardly know - when the miracle has actually occurred in Voyage in Italy or Stromboli, let alone be able to instantly comprehend or absorb its dimensions, implications and consequences.

Maybe this is the authentically Rossellinian aspect of some great, contemporary films: when they build to that strange, mysterious instant which leaves both the characters and us stunned, reeling - transformed but not yet able to articulate the structure and sense of that transformation. It is enough to live this miracle, however confusedly, enough to feel the power of the wave, to know at last that you, and the world around you, has begun to change. Rossellini's cinema is about the moment of revitalisation, on every conceivable level, personal as well as social. That moment of potential rebirth - and the need for it - will never be over for any of us living creatures."


katia said…
Roberto Rossellini’s “The Messiah” (1975) – Right Wing Religious Ideologists, Secular Liberal Government and Christ of the People
Christ as the Epitome of Psychological Normalcy
Roberto Rossellini’s “The Messiah” examines the similarities between Christ’s times two thousand years ago and today’s life in the West and comes to the paradoxical conclusion of a surprising similarity in the structure of the political powers in both historical periods. Following Rossellini’s film we easily discern in Ancient Judea and (by analogy) today in US the political coexistence of the right wing ideologists (in Christ’s times the Judaist clergy demanding his death because of fear of popular revolt and danger of losing their leadership position, and today’s neo-conservatives trying to subdue a growing popular indignation for the irresponsible rich through propaganda, money and police force) and secular pragmatic power (personified by Pontius Pilatus who resembles the American liberal democrats in 21st century with their tendency to yield to American neo-cons like Pontius Pilatus bowed to the Judaist clergy).
The appearance of Christ in a certain historical epoch followed a wave of people’s desperate yearning for change in the conditions of life. It is as if Christ came to help people liberate themselves from the despotic rule of the wealthy minority. But by the very logic of his images Rossellini makes it clear that the murder of Christ marks the attempts of the “deciders” to crush people’s dream of liberation. When after Christ’s death theological skies opened as a wide gate into the future and Saint Mary falls to her knees and starts to pray we come to understand that the project of existential Christianity is dead and Christianity as a religious cult is born – it’s as if, social justice can be realized in the area of values/beliefs/hopes but not inside real life.
Rossellini’s “The Messiah” is so amazingly close to our life today when people of the planet are again in a desperate need for change in the conditions of life – when they are protesting against invented wars, financial collapses created by money-elites and “austerity measures” with which the rich minority again keeps robbing the populations. Rossellini’s film helps us to grasp that extraordinary phenomenon of Christ is inseparable from life, suffering and dreams of the people looking for justice and equality. Today Rossellini’s film is even more relevant than at the time it was made in 1975.
Please, visit: to read about Rossellini’s film (with analysis of shots) and also read essays about films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Bunuel, Kurosawa, Bresson, Pasolini, Antonioni, Fassbinder, Cavani, Alain Tanner, Anne-Marie Mieville, Ken Russell, Bertolucci, Maurice Pialat, Jerzy Skolimowski, Ozu, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Moshe Mizrahi and Ronald Neame.
By Victor Enyutin

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